Standardized tests may well be ruining public education because students are not being encouraged to think for themselves. Instead, they are taught to memorise facts and figures, so that they rarely bother to question anything they are told. Standardized tests seem to have taken the fun out of learning, with students unable to delve into the topics and subjects they enjoy. Teachers find themselves teaching students to answer exam questions in the ‘right’ way, whether or not they actually understand what they are writing.
Most teachers would prefer to have the freedom and flexibility to teach their subjects the way they want, rather than sticking to strict guidelines. However, standardized tests are there in order to assess how well a school is performing, which, ultimately, can affect how much funding a school is awarded. A successful school may be rewarded with more money and greater freedom in how it is managed, which is unlikely to be the case for a ‘failing’ school, as it may be decided that outside intervention is required.
Clearly, then, there is pressure on head teachers to ensure that their teachers are teaching a set curriculum with the emphasis on getting students to perform well in exams. Students spend years of their life learning about different subjects only for their intelligence and aptitude to be measured in a number of exams that each last a few hours. These exams are not going to showcase a student’s brilliant oratory skills or the fact that they work really hard to complete their school work. What they do show is a student’s ability to memorise facts and to answer questions in a way that is favourable with examiners.
It seems rather an unfair way to assess students who each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Standardized tests are used to put students into particular boxes – they tend to be perceived as successful, average or failing. Not everyone fits into these categories neatly, though. Some individuals may not be good at facts and figures, but are exceptionally creative – an attribute which is difficult to measure using standardized tests.
There is a danger that some students are being labelled as failures simply because they struggle in exams. Even academically-gifted, bookish students can have an off-day. They may not perform as well as they expected to in a particular subject and then have to carry that ‘bad’ grade around with them, perhaps undermining their confidence somewhat.
Education is supposed to inspire individuals to want to learn, but it seems that the focus on standardized tests within the public education system is making teaching less enjoyable for teachers and learning far less fun for students. Clearly, this could have negative implications for the future if an increasing number of students buckle under the pressure to succeed in exams or simply quit because they are bored and think that school is a waste of time.